Catholic Pastor Resigns over Internet Pornography Charges
By Joe Mandak
Associated Press State & Local Wire
October 9, 2003
A Roman Catholic priest has resigned as pastor of a Huntingdon County parish and has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge that he downloaded child pornography from the Internet, according to church officials and federal court records.
The Rev. Elwood F. Figurelle, 70, pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Church in Mount Union since 1995, resigned effective Wednesday, according to a statement released Thursday by Bishop Joseph V. Adamec, who heads the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Adamec said that no youths from Figurelle's church or the diocese were victimized by Figurelle's actions.
"As far as we know, there are no victims involved in this case, other than those victimized by the Internet itself," Adamec said.
Figurelle has been on leave since March 20, according to Adamec. That's when the FBI searched Figurelle's rectory and seized a computer on which the obscene images were found, officials said.
Figurelle is charged with one count of taking or receiving obscene materials, specifically "multiple images of nude adult and minor males and females engaged in sexual acts and in various states of sexual arousal and gratification which were accessed and stored on computers" by the priest, court papers said.
Diocesan spokeswoman Sister Mary Parks said Adamec didn't release a statement about the case sooner because church officials were instructed not to do so by investigators.
Adamec didn't address the charges in the statement released Thursday, saying he hadn't seen a copy of the complaint against Figurelle.
"It is truly tragic that sexual and physical abuse of minors continues to occur," Adamec said in the statement. "It is deplorable when that occurs at the hands of priests within the Roman Catholic Church. The diocesan church does not take such allegations lightly."
Adamec said he and his staff have cooperated with the investigation. Figurelle will remain on administrative leave until his court case is finished.
"His future status will be determined at that time," Adamec said.
Figurelle didn't immediately return a call for comment Thursday, nor did his attorney, P. Alan Zulick of Norristown. Records with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania indicate a guilty plea agreement has been filed in the case.
Federal prosecutors didn't immediately return calls for comment or details of that agreement on Thursday.
The charge carries up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, although under federal sentencing guidelines a lesser sentence is likely since Figurelle is not known to have a criminal record.
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